Which way to turn

Heel-side, toe-side, front-side, back-side? Turns, spins, slides, rails? Which way round? I’m confused. I need some clarity.

Let’s start with why we can’t just use left and right. Obviously really. Since we stand sideways on our boards, left and right would correspond to the front and rear of the board, which isn’t very helpful, especially as some riders are regular and some are goofy. So we can’t use left and right to describe direction changes on a board, hence the whole heel-side, toe-side, front-side, back-side thing.

OK, let’s think about toe-side and heel-side. Obviously this comes from snowboarding where being able to tell one edge from the other would be useful.But we don’t really have edges on mountainboards so toe-side and heel-side got mutated into defining which way the rider was turning and gave us toe-side turns and heel-side turns.

Then mountainboarders started getting air and so continuing to use toe-side and heel-side to describe the spins didn’t really work. Front-side and back-side makes more sense. All the other boardsports use these terms to describe the direction of the spin so it was natural that mountainboarding would adopt them too.

But now we’re left with the remnants of both these ways and the confusion that comes from not really being sure which term works in what context.

I’m going to stop using toe-side and heel-side. I can see how they work to describe turns but since mountainboarding involves more than just turns and I want a clearer means of describing everything, it seems the best way to go.

So we’re left with Front-side and Back-side. They work fine for rotations (Back-side 360), and rails (Front-side board slide) as they describe how the rider is approaching the feature (kicker, quarterpipe, rail). But does it work for turns, slides and scrubbing? Well, yes it does, if you use the idea of ‘approach’ to explain whether a manoeuvre is Front-side or Back-side.

Turns first. What used to be called a Toe-side turn is now a Back-side turn as it tells us that the rider is approaching the slope with their back, just as they would approach the lip of a kicker if they were doing a Back-side rotation. And so a Heel-side turn is now a Front-side turn as the rider is approaching the slope with the front of their body.

This idea of using how the rider is approaching the slope makes slides a bit easier to understand too. The usual ‘powerslide’ of grabbing between your toes and turning on your heels sharply is, by this new definition, a Front-side Slide as the rider is facing the direction in which they are sliding.

Now scrubbing. Same thing really. If you’re scrubbing on your heels, that is a Front-side Scrub as you are turning like you would if you were doing a Front-side 180 and you are facing the apex of the turn.

So, that’s it. No more Toe-side and Heel-side, Just Front-side and Back-side to explain it all.